Using Airbnb for Travel Therapy Housing

Through most of my career as a travel PT, I have used a couple simple ways to arrange my housing. Primarily I used Craigslist, but occasionally I would check the local paper classifieds. It seems weird in the digital age to be checking classifieds in the paper, but typically those listing are a different pool than the ones on Craigslist… definitely worth a shot.

This was the view behind the most recent Airbnb I stayed in… on a farm, in the back of a valley, in Iceland! Lot’s of cool options available on the airbnb.

I’ve written about using Craigslist in the past and it suddenly seems like Craigslist has become antiquated. With new technology and services, the coming-of-age of tiny homes, and people seemingly taking interest in paring-down their Earthly belongings to be able to get creative with their housing, it is time to update the way I think about temporary housing. I’ve often used for weekends away. I have used it on trips between assignments. I have used it on the front-end of assignments to fill gaps while I look for longer-term housing. But I guess it’s time to start using Airbnb as a primary way to find housing on assignment.

Airbnb has changed the way we can all look for housing. People are building homes and apartments with areas specifically set aside for guests as an extra income stream. The variety in what you can find on Airbnb is endless. If you are into renting just a single room in someone’s house, they’ve got it. If you want a furnished place of your own, there are a lot of options. There are many houses and apartments on Airbnb that are set for 30 day minimum or longer which is perfect for travelers. It seems more and more travelers are depending on Airbnb as their primary go-to for lodging. With the ability to contact the owner ahead of booking, it also leaves open the option to make contact and create month-to-month arrangements – or arrange whatever works best for your travel schedule. People have also told me about their ability to negotiate down posted rates through contacting the owners – as a professional, don’t underestimate your value as a desirable tenant and your ability to drive down rent. Airbnb also has an option to search specifically for units that allow pets. FINALLY, a solid answer for all you people asking me about traveling with a dog.

Here’s the waterfall we hiked to behind the Airbnb we stayed in in Iceland. This waterfall is in the crevasse seen in the above picture. There are sheep roaming free all through the valleys and hills.

Tip: Actually read the reviews. These are a huge perk to Airbnb and can save you from committing to a less-than-desirable living situation. The reviews are one feature that makes Airbnb standout from options like Craigslist and the classifieds. Like your interview for any travel assignment, the reviews are your big chance to learn everything you can about where you are headed when you are likely going to have to commit sight-unseen.

The Downside: In the most expensive areas, Airbnb seems only to exacerbate the price rather than relieve it. I recently did searches in San Francisco, Boston, Honolulu, and Nashville for 3 month private housing (no bedrooms in someone else’s home). I found very few options less than $3,000/mo. In the majority of cities, you can find very reasonable options, but just be aware that Airbnb is only one way to find housing and you may have to consider other options if you aren’t finding what you need at the price you can afford. If you are willing to share with roommates, your affordable options open up considerably.

Alternatives: is very similar to Airbnb, essentially offering the same service. It’s worth a look, but there tends to be less overall selection. I had hoped in expensive markets it would offer some more affordable options, but the prices seem to be on-par with Airbnb. The one great redeemer for HomeAway is the ability to search for more specific features and location of housing. You can even specifically search for properties like houseboats, cabins, castles, etc… it’s a pretty cool feature and the places are absolutely wild to browse through, but I don’t know how practical that is in reality for traveling therapist housing. Incidentally, I did come pretty close to living in a house boat on assignment once – I’ll just say that it has to be the right season in the right location at the right budget point for a houseboat to work out. You can probably rule a houseboat out as a reasonable option, but how cool would that be?

As a quick reminder, unless you are just getting into travel and want to keep it simple, take the housing stipend and find your own housing. With a little bit of footwork, you can save a ton of money finding your own housing and typically find it in an area more suitable to your own, unique taste. Airbnb is just one more tool for you to use in immersing yourself into the next community you work in!

A Working Vacation

Now is as good a time as any to mention that I really don’t know what you people want me to write about. I try to mix it up but there are 400 or so of you out there every month, silently reading my blogs. So, if there’s a broad type of post you’d like me to write about, here’s your chance to let me know. In the meantime I’ll continue with my completely random stream-of-thought ramblings about travel therapy tips, my personal experiences, and more PT-politics issues than I should rant about on a site that is supposedly dedicated to travel therapy.

The view out the front window at the hut. Pure relaxation and solitude.

The view out the front window at the hut. Pure relaxation and solitude.

This time around, we have a simple travel blog. Hopefully it’s a fun catch up of what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks in the prolonged move from Colorado to Martha’s Vineyard (an island off of Cape Cod).

Kate and I wrapped up work back on April 25th and immediately hiked into the woods for a couple nights in a hut in the snowy Aspen back country. The hike was meant to be 6 miles in, but we inadvertently took the scenic route and turned it into a 10 mile hike – it was well worth it for a couple days and nights of really deep relaxation in solitude without another human around for miles. Upon our return home to our hospital-owned apartment, we busted our butts to get packed for the remaining 2.5 weeks off of work.

We eventually got packed, stowed our winter gear in our usual storage area, and hit the open road. With a final destination of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, we promptly headed 6 hours West. Kate was taking the second half of her Dry Needling training in Salt Lake City, which seems like a very intense weekend of learning. Learning the skills of dry needling sounds wonderful, but 3 full days of being needled by other beginners sounds awful. Anyways, Kate worked really hard all weekend, and I just played – some hiking, brewery hopping with a good SLC-based friend, watched some horses and boxing on TV, and I found a small traveler’s gem called “The Heavy Metal Shop,” seems pretty self-explanatory. All good things must come to an end, and we needed to start heading East.

Great view of the city during my hikes in SLC while Kate was working hard at her course.

Great view of the city during my hikes in SLC while Kate was working hard at her course.

We hammered the 45 hour drive to the east coast, made it in 4 days including one very long all-day, all-night drive from Indiana to Maine.  At 3:30 in the morning, we stopped outside of Boston to disconnect and drop off a trailer at Uhaul. The world is a weird place between 3 and 4 AM, I think it’s the way the end of some peoples’ day collides with the start of others’ day. Eventually at 7 AM on Wednesday, we rolled into Maine where we would spend time with family, and occasionally zip down to Boston to have some time with friends. 11 days to go before starting work – sounds relaxing, right? No. Wait… Hell no! We had the task ahead of buying a camper to live in for the summer.

Light houses are definitely a prominent tourist attraction here on Martha's Vineyard. So, being tourist, we got right out there the first weekend looking at these things. "Yup, there's another light house."

Light houses are definitely a prominent tourist attraction here on Martha’s Vineyard. So, being tourist, we got right out there the first weekend looking at these things. “Yup, there’s another light house.”

Several days later, we bought a camper in Southern Maine and towed it with our Toyota Highlander, which we have named “MacLeod” (there can only be one Highlander) – MacLeod barely handled it. Transmission fluid heat warning lights and a general struggle up hills were the pertinent symptoms – I set a speed limit of 60 mph for the rest of the time towing the camper and emptied the full sewage tank to lose some weight, no more warning lights. Who new they were throwing in 40 gallons of free sewage with the camper!?

We got the camper back up North and had a few days to visit with family but mostly worked like heck to get the camper ready for move-in. Washing, vacuuming, scrubbing, and caulking would fill the majority of the week before hooking the camper back up to MacLeod and getting down to Martha’s Vineyard. On Friday, we took the short ferry ride from Cape Cod to Tha Vineyahd and have spent the rest of the time setting up camp and moving in. I’ve been dying to share more about the camper, but I’ll save it for a (preview-of-coming-attractions) blog devoted completely to the camper life. Spoiler alert, space is tight in a 21 ft camper.

Here's the ferry we brought the camper over on. We saw it out offshore headed to the cape, in the background.

Here’s the ferry we brought the camper over on. We saw it out offshore headed to the cape, in the background.

So, here I am, hooked up to the wireless internet signal that comes from a box strapped to a wooden post out back of the camper. Inside, I am surrounded by more belongings than should exist in a camper this size. We’ll be living on this camp site for the next 6 months, so I suppose the abundance of supplies is warranted, but we have some organizing to do.  It’s a chilly night, so the propane heater is kicking on and off. Work started two days ago, and so far, the most challenging thing about living in a camper is getting work clothes out and getting them unwrinkled. At 3:30 AM this morning I was walking around the campground trying to find out where a smoke alarm was going off, the detector was outside an unoccupied cabin and fog was setting it off – weird time of day. If wrinkled clothes and a stray smoke detector are my worst problems with living in a camper, I’ll easily take that trade off for a summer full of nights by the campfire.

That’s all for now. You’ve got some blogs about home care and camper living coming up, so if you want me to write something different, you better let me know!

Two Weeks of Shampoo

The last few weeks around this blog have been a little too serious for my taste. Time to stop taking on all the problems of the world and get back to the nonsense and fun about being a traveler.

Things are winding down on this assignment. 11 weeks are gone and only 2 remain. In a non-traveling life, I think months and years would start to blend together for me, but the constant change in job and location helps to keep my memories of events organized. If I lose track of when something happened, all I have to do is think about where I was living, and instantly I know when it was. When did the Red Sox play the Rockies in the World Series? I was living in Colorado Springs, so it must have been 2007 – Go Sox! This constant change also creates constant deadlines – projects must be completed before any big move, i.e. Christmas cards must be sent before this assignment is over, otherwise it will be mid-December before I’m situated and organized again.

The sun set a couple weekends ago. This has been a great assignment and moving on will bring more adventure but is bitter sweet.

The sun set a couple weekends ago. This has been a great assignment and moving on will bring more adventure but is bitter sweet.

As the time has gone on with being a traveling PT, I’ve become very good at estimating time in unusual situations. For instance, it takes about two weeks for me to memorize the light switch arrangement in a new apartment. Until two weeks has passed in a new place, I am likely to be found late at night, in the dark, feeling my way around the walls trying to find the right switches. I realized recently that I’m constantly thinking of all kinds of bizarre things in terms of time.  A Costco trip at the beginning of each assignment will be filled with estimations about whether each package is big enough or too big for the whole assignment – I’ve gotten good. Two large jugs of maple syrup (32 oz each) will last 3 months. We somehow ended up with too much maple syrup on this assignment, now we’re really having to eat/drink a lot of the stuff – woe is me. 🙂

Now that I think about it, this assignment has been a tricky one for managing the amount of products we have. We’re really isolated here on the island of Molokai, and there’s no major chain stores (except for Ace Hardware). The barge comes in only twice a week with supplies and most of the stores are locally owned and small. Most of the things we’ve been buying are limited in selection and you have to buy what’s available whenever you need it. I thought I was going to run out of body wash and spotted some on sale a couple weeks ago. I jumped at the opportunity to get a decent price. As the days tick down, the original bottle is still managing to hang on and I’m realizing that with a little conservation I probably could have made it through without the new bottle. Now, with all this extra body wash, the inclination is to try and burn through the bottle fast, make every shower a super-soapy-sudsy event. But, that’s not sane, I’ve really had to step back, use the normal amount of body wash, and realize that it’s alright if I leave a couple bucks worth of soap at the apartment when the assignment is over. Man, I thought my powers of soapy-estimation were better than that. Luckily, we’ve just learned that the travel PT starting the week after us will be moving into our apartment, it makes me feel better about leaving some extra supplies behind.

Time for me to run, we’re having hamburgers tonight, gotta start to eat down the beef supply in the freezer. I’ll write again next week before this assignment is done – the deadline is approaching fast.

Enter Island

A hike in the Haleakala National Park on Maui. Insanely beautiful bamboo forests.

A hike in the Haleakala National Park on Maui. Insanely beautiful bamboo forests.

As I write this, the sun has recently set and I’m sitting in the house Kate and I rented today. Our landlord will soon return to Seattle, but for now, he’s our quazi-roommate staying in the separate studio attached to the house. He’ll be finishing up a few house work tasks before eventually returning to Seattle. Nice guy, interesting guy. Apparently he’s a lawyer by trade, but has spent some time working in Denali National Park. At some point, he bought this house out here on the most remote of the publicly accessible Hawaiian Islands and clearly enjoys all the great nature activities here. He has two large lockers of camping and snorkeling gear in the garage collecting dust that he has encouraged us to use, so that’s a real bonus with this short-term rental. There’s also a mountain bike thrown into the deal that he spent part of yesterday afternoon fixing-up, JACKPOT! I’m sure we’ll get some more stories out of him before this is all over. Before getting on island here yesterday morning, we spent 5 days hiking, camping, and relaxing on Maui. My visits to Maui in the past have always been short, usually over a long-weekend from Honolulu, and usually packed with as much activity on as much of the island as possible. This time around, we concentrated the trip on two main areas of the island with a few days at each place, and we were really able to soak it in and relax. In coming from the Big Island, Maui was actually an increase in pace. More cars, more traffic, more busy, more tourists – my disdain for tourists is really quite impressive considering my living the vast majority of each year as a tourist in various tourist towns. I fear for my reintroduction to the mainland in 3 months – if Maui’s pace is too fast for me, I can only imagine the shock a city or metropolitan airport would bring.

Man, I hate tourists. We camped wright by the beach, it was really peaceful in the morning and evening hours.

Man, I hate tourists. We camped right by the beach, it was really peaceful in the morning and evening hours.

I’ve grown used to the small 9-seater planes we have been taking between islands. This trip to Maui was the 4th time flying by small plane in the last several months. To sweeten the deal on Mokulele Airlines, legs between islands are $50 flat rate and free from TSA searches and waiting in a line of any kind. It’s definitely flying with all the airport hassle removed. Yesterday, however, we did not fly, we took a ferry boat over to Molokai from Maui early in the morning. We rushed off to look at the house and then were able to quickly and truly settle back into relaxation-mode. Maui is slower paced than Oahu, the Big Island is slower than Maui, and Molokai is the slowest by far. The past 36 hours here have already been an experience. Afternoons have been filled with empty beaches and sleepy, small-town diners and bars. The land here is dramatic and beautiful. This afternoon, we took a walk up a small dirt path from the beach we were on. We knew the dusty red path would lead us to some secluded beaches down the shoreline that are inaccessible by car. During a short walk down the path, we saw wild turkeys and a bunch of deer. The deer here are cool to see, but are not-native and highly damaging to the vegetation. The damage to vegetation ultimately leads to a whole other chain of erosion events and has big negative affect on water quality and sea-life. Luckily, these deer are tasty, so local hunters are able to put a significant dent in their population. Our beach-stroll turned nature-walk got really interesting when it opened up to an abandoned beach formerly occupied by a resort company that used to run this part of the island. As Kate and I strolled down the beach looking at the decaying buildings set a ways back from the water, incredible views in every direction, and crystal clear water breaking over shallow jet-black lava rocks, we somehow both failed to see the 500 lbs monk seal sleeping in the sun that we were literally about to trip over (when I say “literally,” I mean it). Kate was about 3 feet from the huge monk seal and his partner when in an instant we and the seals all realized the others were there. The huge seals rolled over and Kate and I did a super-speed reflexive sprint about 10 yards up the beach. I’m not sure about the true ferociousness of a monk seal, but I know they can move faster than you’d think and can pack a wallop with their teeth or tusks or whatever it is they have. As we cautiously circled to the other side of the seals at a distance, we watched the seals, they watched us, and it seemed like everyone understood that all four parties involved were equally surprised. There’s only about 1,100 of this species left, and here we are just running into two of them on a day at the beach… crazy. We continued a short distance down the beach and saw some fish and an eel swimming in a tide pool – nearby, there was a “lahge lobstah” shell dried out on the beach. This beach, departed only a short distance from humans was just totally saturated with life. Kate and I had been in the sun long enough, and headed back to the car. As we passed the seals, the huge one let out a bark at us, I think just to see how fast we could move again.

Taken as we approached Molokai on the Molokai Princess Ferry. A dramatic island.

Taken as we approached Molokai on the Molokai Princess Ferry. A dramatic island.

I can’t believe we haven’t been here two days yet. We’ve experienced a lot in our short time here. It will be a wild 13 weeks for sure. Work starts tomorrow morning! But for now the night is pretty quiet except for the roosters I can hear clucking around the neighborhood. More updates and pictures to come soon – I can’t believe I didn’t bring a camera on that walk today. Oh well, next time.

Feast or Famine

When we last left off (Just Go With It – 5/9/14), I was headed 3,000 miles west out to Hawaii with the verbal assurance that there would be work when I arrived, but without anything in writing. Would there be work when I reached the islands? Would I be a kept man depending on my wife to bring home the bacon? Exactly how much snorkeling can one unemployed PT do in 13 weeks?

After some flip-flopping* back and forth, the work seems like it’s coming. In fact, I think I’ll have too much work in 2-3 weeks.

I arrived here 6 days ago, on Friday night. Luckily, the day before, my employment packet and job offer arrived in the mail from a private practice I have been speaking with. So, I learned how much I was going to be paid hourly if I worked, but had no guarantee of any hours. All there was to do was to get my feet on the ground in Hawaii and hope for the best.

O'hana Papaya

Papaya from the back yard garden! Included in the garden are the following trees that I can identify: 4 papaya trees, 2 mango trees, a hot pepper tree, and a coconut bearing palm tree.

When we arrived, we spent the weekend Craigslisting to find an apartment and a cheap car for the next three months. We found an awesome o’hana apartment! O’hana is the Hawaiian word for family, they call what we know as a mother-in-law apartment an o’hana. Because this island is essentially a big volcano with the top portion sticking out of the ocean, everything is on a hillside, and, therefor, everything has an ocean view. Our ocean view mother-in-law apartment is quite the pad – it also has a pool and a fruit-bearing garden in the backyard. Bugs, mostly cockroaches, are simply a fact of life in Hawaii. When we were out here a few years back, I had an old Toyota Camry with a roach problem. This time around, I have upgraded to a Toyota 4-Runner with a roach problem. I think bigger cars come with bigger roach problems…  back to the contract story.

I didn’t have any wok scheduled for this past Monday, so after dropping Kate off at her job, I popped in to visit the contract manager at the community hospital who I’ve been talking with about setting up an agency contract. All I had heard at this point was “we will need you, we will have work for you.” When I arrived on Monday, the story had changed, “It sounds like we may not need you at all,” says the contract manager. Uh oh, I was depending on there being work when I got out here. So, my efforts were refocused on the independent contract with the private practice. Originally I had told them I would be available Mon/Wed/Fri with the hopes of filling in at the hospital on Tues/Thurs, but with the changes in what I was hearing from the hospital, I offered to work all five days per week at the private practice. Right now, I don’t have a lot of appointments scheduled, but I can see how after evaluations are performed, and a few days go by, the schedule will grow considerably into a full 30-40 hours of work. This one private practice job should be just fine.

This morning, I heard from my recruiter on the hospital job, “James, call me when you wake up, I have good news.” The hospital changed their tune – census is up, and they need some extra help. At this time, I’m feeling conflicted about what to do. The private practice is bending over backwards to accommodate me and to try and fill my schedule. At this time, there’s not a very full schedule, but a couple weeks will fix that – unfortunately, they aren’t will to guarantee any hours. The hours patients are there with me are the only hours I get paid. On the other hand, the gig with the agency at the hospital will pay more and there may be a couple days worth of guaranteed hours.


The roach mobile, o’hana in the background!

When it rains, it pours. I’m currently working about 10 hours this week with a long-weekend quick approaching, it’s been a nice break, but I need to get back to consistent work. On the horizon, I can potentially expect 60+ hours of work any given week. While the thought of bearing down, working long hours, and stacking up piles of cash is appealing to me, I’m in paradise (again) for 3 months, and I’m not going to blow it by working indoors 60 hours a week.

For now, it’s back to waiting. I’ll have to see what the hospital really wants from me before I commit to anything. If they do guarantee hours, the decisions will get difficult – will I choose the higher paying guaranteed hours? Or will I stick by the practice who has not guaranteed me any hours, but has been good to me thus far?

Time will tell, for now it’s back to researching which beach to camp on for my 3+ day weekend.

Happy Memorial Day! Aloha!

*In Hawaii, flip-flops are called slippahs. example: Take ya slippahs off when ya come in da house, brah.

Island Dreaming

Just a quick entry for you folks today. Thought I would give an update on my current job search and some of the obstacles I’m running into.

Regular readers know my wife, Kate, and I are both PTs who travel together and know that this sometimes presents some unique challenges. Mainly, we need two PT jobs when we travel instead of just one.

Island of Hawai‘i, Hawaii

Kona coffee every morning.

Our hope this summer is to return to Hawaii. We worked in Waikiki a few years back and after a couple consecutive years of assignments in the more Northern reaches of our country, we’re ready for some sun and water. This time, we’d like to try to avoid the city and check out an island other than Oahu.

I try not to rant on here too much, but I really wish we could have some more reciprocity between states with our licenses, like the nurses do. It took almost three months to reinstate our Hawaii licenses – a process which should have been easy, but dragged on mostly because of mistakes by state board staff in several different states. Anyhow, we now have our Hawaii licenses current and even have a possible job on the big island (Hawaii).

Normally, we would be psyched to have a lead on a job in Hawaii this far out from our start date (4 weeks), but our situation got a little bit spicier this week. Two jobs on Nantucket materialized and got us thinking a bit more Easterly.

Nantucket, MA

Nantucket – 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. Very expensive.

Nantucket sounds like a great time – but, it comes with a few challenges: 1. We’d really like to be in Hawaii. 2. Housing prices are ridiculous. The only Nantucket posting on right now is a house available for rent at $40,000 per month! There’s no camping on Nantucket, so a trailer or RV are out. I’m trying to wrap my head around how living in a house boat for 3 months would go. (I think it would go pretty awesome!) If these Nantucket gigs work out, I think we’re going to have to ask for higher pay to help buffer the cost of living.

That’s all for now, just a quick update and I hope to have more to share soon.

THE Housing

Finding an apartment here was TOUGH! …more on this in a minute.

There’s a lot of different ways to get your housing on travel assignment. By far the easiest way is having your staffing agency set up the housing for you. If you don’t know the area and really have no preference on location, the housing is typically pretty nice and turn-key ready. On the other hand, you could take the tax-free housing stipend and find housing on your own.

There is a financial advantage to figuring out the housing on your own and taking the cash. It keeps all the money in your reimbursement package and away from the resources it takes for a staffing agency to find and arrange your housing. In fifteen-or-so assignments, I’ve only had my recruiter get housing for me once. If you haven’t searched for your own housing on assignment, you’d be surprise at the amount of temporary and furnished housing that is available. Craigslist is how we almost always find our housing. If we can get to the assignment a few days ahead of time, that’s usually enough time to hit Craigslist hard and find good housing in a fun neighborhood before work starts.

It turns out Anchorage rental housing has a 98% occupancy rate. That’s REALLY high. We were lucky enough to have an open invitation with friends in Wasilla, whom we ended up crashing with for over 2 weeks. [whom?] There was so little availability in rentals around Anchorage that we really didn’t get a chance to see many apartments. Luckily, among the 3 apartments we looked at, was a nice two bedroom, utilities included, deck, washer/dryer, and parking.

The apartment is more than we like to pay for rent, but with a location convenient for work, plenty of room for visitors, and slim pickings for other options…. it’s worked out just fine. Which is a lovely segue to the larger message: With a little patience in finding housing and finding a job everything works out just fine. As a travel PT or PTA, you may go a week or two without a job or work for a week while living in an extended stay with all your junk in your car, but IT ALL WORKS OUT JUST FINE.

The Things We Look For In An Apartment:

-Furnished               -Short-term lease

-Washer/Dryer        -WiFi

-Parking                     -Utilities included